Carol's Story: Long, breathless wait for an inhaler

Carol Cadoo walked out of the Simi Valley Free Clinic empty-handed late on a Monday afternoon, leaned against her Dodge Stratus and cried.

The 54-year-old catering sales director came to the clinic for an inhaler. She was told that to get the medicine, she needs a prescription. To get a prescription, she needs to see a doctor. To see a doctor, she has to wait several days, maybe more.

It’s time she doesn’t have.

The last time her medicine ran out, she suffered an asthma attack. She couldn’t breathe. She tried to drive herself to the emergency room but ended up in an ambulance. The final bill was $4,300.

Cadoo is on the hook because she’s been uninsured since August. She was laid off from her job at a Thousand Oaks banquet center 28 days after her rented home in Simi Valley burned to the ground.

The fire killed her dog, Max, and destroyed everything from her suede couch to her 14-year-old son’s computer. The community came to the rescue, helping them find a new home in a Simi Valley mobile park and donating thousands of dollars of living supplies.

Things are better now. Cadoo has a new job in the catering business. She’s still not covered by health insurance but thinks that if she sells enough wedding events, her new employer will offer a policy.

But she needs medicine and doesn’t understand why she can’t get it. Her gripe is not with the free clinic but with a system that sees people in need and tells them to wait. That makes her lose her mind.

Two days after her visit to the clinic, still on a quest to get her medicine, she started crying again during a phone call.

“I’m not crying out of sadness,” she said. “I’m crying out of rage.”

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